On Thursday 19 May 2022, NSW Parliament passed the Voluntary Assisted Dying Act that Dying with Dignity NSW has been lobbying for for nearly 50 years.
Although the Bill passed in May, like all the other states that have passed VAD laws, NSW has to go through an implementation phase. This was specified in the legislation and will take 18 months. This is an important phase so that we can make sure voluntary assisted dying is safe, accessible and follows the law.
The date when the first person can apply for voluntary assisted dying in NSW will be 28th November 2023.
The new law aims to give terminally ill people in NSW the ability to avoid the extreme suffering many experience at the end of their lives, despite the best available medical care.
The law is a conservative model of voluntary assisted dying, limited to people who are terminally ill and whose intolerable suffering cannot be alleviated.
For someone to be able to access VAD in NSW, they’ll need to meet the eligibility criteria, which is;
- They must be an adult (18 years and older), who is an Australian citizen, a permanent resident of Australia, or has been resident in Australia for at least 3 continuous years.
- They must have been living in NSW for at least 12 months.
- They must have at least one disease, illness or medical condition that is advanced, progressive and
- will, on the balance of probabilities, cause their death within six months (or within 12 months for neurodegenerative diseases such as motor neurone disease), and
- is causing suffering that cannot be relieved in a way the person considers tolerable.
- The person must have decision-making capacity in relation to voluntary assisted dying,
- The person must be acting voluntarily,
- The person must not be acting because of pressure or duress, and
- The person’s request for access to voluntary assisted dying has to be enduring.
- In order to access this compassionate, end-of-life choice, the dying person themselves must make the request. So not a family member, a carer or anyone else.
- A request cannot be made in an advance care directive because the person has to have decision-making capacity throughout the whole process.
- They have to make three requests and one has to be in writing. There has to be two witnesses to the written request.
- Assessment of criteria for access is carried out by two independent medical practitioners who have to meet minimum requirements regarding their qualifications and experience and they have to have done special VAD training.
- All doctors will be trained in recognising the signs of pressure or duress and if they are unsure whether a patient is acting voluntarily, or whether pressure or duress could be a factor, they must refer the patient to someone who has the skills and training to make a determination. This could be a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker or the police depending on the circumstances.